Glasgow University fire risks found to be ‘substantial’

By Lucy Dunn

Numerous recommendations have been made to the University to prevent damage to the building and its contents.

Glasgow University has been accused of “neglectful storage of combustible materials” following a recent safety review. A Freedom of Information request sent by the The Herald revealed that several of the University’s buildings were not adequately safeguarded from fires, putting their contents – including art by Rembrandt – at risk. The review was carried out following the 2014 fire at Glasgow School of Art which caused significant damage to the Mackintosh Building. 

Bute Hall’s fire risk has been classed as “substantial”, with the report stating that the “lack of passive or active protection of the timber elements of structure will do little to restrict fire spread”. The building’s “limited access options” are described to likely “make firefighting intervention strategies difficult”. 

The Gilbert Scott Building also presented a number of issues, with the report commenting that “passive and active fire safety measures [have been] poorly adopted”, and current risks are increased by “neglectful storage of combustible materials, which at times is concerning”. The University Chapel’s fire risk is “moderate”, with the report commenting on the need for another survey in this case. Fire safety issues in the Hunterian Museum were also brought into question.

Recommendations from the report concluded that the content of these buildings should be removed immediately. Further advice includes reconsideration of the use of these buildings, alongside the installation of a sprinkler system. Gordon Gibb, owner of a West End architecture practice, summarises: “The underlying theme in the Glasgow University report is the need for effective management in the protection of historic buildings in constant use.”

This article was updated on 17 October at 8.41pm to include the following:

The Glasgow Guardian reached out to the University of Glasgow for a comment, and a UofG spokesperson said: “The University takes the threat of fire extremely seriously and has a range of protection measures in place across all of its estate, including heritage buildings.

“Risk assessments are regularly carried out as standard practice and following the first fire at Glasgow School of Art, a review of fire safety within our historic buildings was carried out by the University’s Safety and Environment Protection Service.

“In recent years, additional measures have been taken, specifically in relation to historic buildings and in the last 12 months, a significant investment has been made to install new L1 fire alarms to 15 Heritage buildings, including the listed main building.”


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